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Earl Sweatshirt - Doris Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.25
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 8.25
Production 8.25
Creativity 8.25
Lasting Value 8.25
Reviewer Tilt 8.25
Final Verdict: 83%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.25
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 9.5
Production 8.5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 9
Average: 88%
Inside AP.net

Earl Sweatshirt - Doris

Reviewed by: Jake Jenkins (08/21/13)
Earl Sweatshirt- Doris
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Record Label: Columbia

When Odd Future emerged from the underground and into the mainstream spotlight in 2011, the youngest and arguably most promising member of the hip-hop collective was abruptly taken away, and all that was left behind was a mixtape and a chant that every fan of the group could shout as a war cry at their shows. Earl Sweatshirt's absence didn't detract from the success of the group in the least bit, and over the last couple of years several members have released projects with varying degrees of success. Tyler, The Creator put out his own Wolf earlier this year, and while there are many things about that record that are commendable, it left the question of how much longer the Odd Future aesthetic could be played out before becoming stale.

To some, it has already become stale, but to others, the youthful rebellion of the group still brings out excitement and enthusiasm for the music. For the past two years, however, not all of the music from the camp has backed up the interesting qualities of the group's ethos. Earl's return in 2012 reignited a lot of the interest that seemed to be declining, and since his return on The OF Tape Vol. 2 cut “Oldie,” he has released songs that are as strong as the best stuff everyone else released during his absence. Earl is proof that there is still steam left in Odd Future, and his highly anticipated debut album Doris stands as the best major label release from the group (aside from Channel ORANGE).

One of the things that detractors of the group pin-pointed as a problem with Odd Future was their lewd, discomforting subject matter that put most of them under the umbrella of “shock rap.” Earl Sweatshirt's mixtape EARL was filled with it, but taken as a form of entertainment and not literal meaning, the release stood out due to Earl's flow and wordplay which were well beyond his years, even if his lyrical content wasn't. On Doris, Earl makes it a point to distance himself from the shock rap label and instead opens up and lets people see what's really going on in his mind. The most striking example of this is on “Chum,” where he confesses to missing his absent father and outlines the dent Complex Magainze put in his relationship with his mother when they uncovered his whereabouts while he was gone. It's a rare moment of vulnerability for a kid that seems so reserved about everything, and its a reminder that the kids behind the earlier releases of the Odd Future crew have grown up in a lot of ways.

While moments like “Chum” are a deviation from the usual subject matter of Earl, there are still many places on Doris where he lets the immature, no-fucks-given personality shine through, though its considerably toned down from what we saw on EARL (in other words, there's nothing about rape here), and it makes these moments much more listenable and enjoyable. Earl starts out “Hive” with the line “Promise Heron I'll put my fist up after I get my dick sucked/Quick buck, maybe a gold chain,” and the whole song is an example of how his technical ability as a rapper makes his more crude moments much more interesting than they would be if he just came out and said vulgar things without veiling them with dizzying rhymes and metaphors. The same can't necessarily be said of Vince Staples' violent guest verse, but the juxtaposition of the two rapping styles works wonders on the woozy track.

Sonically, Doris paints the picture of an Earl that has a lot going on in his mind, and its understandable the way some of it turned out considering the immense amount of pressure he felt upon his coming back. It's not easy to be vaulted into the spotlight overnight, and I can only imagine that it's even harder when returning to the country after being away for so long with no idea of the mythical figure you had become. As a result, this album is all over the place with songs like “Burgundy” that are on the brighter side of things and songs like “Sasquatch” and “Guild” that take a dive into the darker parts of Earl's mind. There's an incoherent quality to it, but Earl spends the album trying to make sense of everything around him which makes it work.

The guests here are all up to the task of taking a dive into Earl's world, and many find their place in some unlikely spots. Frank Ocean spits some bars on the nonchalant “Sunday,” and as he recounts his feud with Chris Brown you can't help but recall the scene of Frank getting his grammy as everyone besides Brown gives him a standing ovation. RZA also shows up on "Molasses" for an enticing verse that picks up the pace of the back of the album, which does tend to drag a little bit. Even the head-scratching SK La'Flare verse that kicks off the album seems like it fits when taken a teaser before Earl goes into his usual jaw-dropping bars. A few guests drag down the songs they appear on, most notably the always boring Domo Gensis on “20 Wave Caps" and "Knight," and even Tyler, The Creator brings down “Whoa” a slight amount, though not enough to keep it from being a highlight. For the most part, the guests fit right in with the themes of the album, making Doris feel a little more coherent despite its varying production choices.

The best thing Doris has going for it is Earl's rapping, though the production that he himself offers on the album shows that he is a well rounded artist that isn't just a one-trick pony. The only other hip-hop album from 2013 that can compete with Doris on a pure technical level is Run The Jewels, and where Killer Mike and El-P beat you over the head with their superior talent, Earl cooly lays it on you as he quietly makes you think “wait, what did he just say?” over and over again. When listening to Doris, you're going to want to have lyrics nearby or else you're going to miss well over half of what's being said. It makes for an album that's hard to listen to without putting in some effort, but the results speak for themselves as Doris proves to be both a rewarding and engrossing listen, even if there are still a few kinks to be worked out.

8.25/10

Additional InformationTrack Listing:
1. Pre (ft. SK La' Flare)
2. Burgundy (ft. Vince Staples)
3. 20 Wave Caps (ft. Domo Genesis)
4. Sunday (ft. Frank Ocean)
5. Hive (ft. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies)
6. Chum
7. Sasquatch (ft. Tyler, The Creator)
8. Centurion (ft. Vince Staples)
9. 523
10. Uncle Al
11. Guild (ft. Mac Miller)
12. Molasses (ft. RZA)
13. Whoa (ft. Tyler, The Creator)
14. Hoarse
15. Knight (ft. Domo Genesis)
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 33
11:21 PM on 08/21/13
#2
Beej 347
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Great review, I'll definitely check this out
02:51 AM on 08/22/13
#3
lightcollapse
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same score as pitchfork
02:52 AM on 08/22/13
#4
lightcollapse
on the edge of summer
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"what can i say, they got it right" - jake
06:20 AM on 08/22/13
#5
Rob McWilliams
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Great review, definitely worth the pickup. "Hoarse" is just stellar.
08:41 AM on 08/22/13
#6
tacosforcharles
it all ends
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Good review. Picked up a physical copy at Best Buy yesterday so that a) I could support the kid, and b) so I could have lyric sheets in front me of while I'm listening. Definitely improved the listening experience ... this kid can definitely spit.

I think the problem is that most people got so hyped on this record that they thought it would be an "instant classic", and I think it falls a bit short of that. He's still so young, I think he has it in him maybe in another album or two. This is a damn fine hip hop record though, one of the best of the year.
09:05 AM on 08/22/13
#7
JamieTheSonger
05 Fuck Em
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same score as pitchfork

same w/ trap lord
09:10 AM on 08/22/13
#8
cowlord
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Really disagree about Domo, he's gotten a lot better (still not great but he's solid). He's pretty boring on Knight but I like his verse on 20 Wave Caps.

Otherwise pretty spot-on...haha
09:10 AM on 08/22/13
#9
Jake Jenkins
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ya but i posted that before they did sooo
09:11 AM on 08/22/13
lemontie
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When you say Burgundy is on the lighter side of things, do you mean the beats? Because, while I know what you mean about the darker tone to the other songs, I feel like Burgundy is incredibly dark lyrically.
09:12 AM on 08/22/13
JamieTheSonger
05 Fuck Em
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ya but i posted that before they did sooo
ya i know not what I was getting at
09:13 AM on 08/22/13
Jake Jenkins
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When you say Burgundy is on the lighter side of things, do you mean the beats? Because, while I know what you mean about the darker tone to the other songs, I feel like Burgundy is incredibly dark lyrically.
yeah i meant beat-wise
09:24 AM on 08/22/13
Cody Nelson
R.O.T.T.W.E.I.L.E.R. S.N.A.T.C.H.
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Really nice work, Jake. Your best review yet. A lot of these thoughts floated around in my head while I was listening the the record, so it's safe to say you hit the nail on the head.
09:24 AM on 08/22/13
Jaytothesyg
The Greatest Generation
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Great review fully agree
11:34 AM on 08/22/13
Jake Jenkins
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Really nice work, Jake. Your best review yet. A lot of these thoughts floated around in my head while I was listening the the record, so it's safe to say you hit the nail on the head.

Great review fully agree

thanks you guys <3
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